Mortgage applications to purchase homes in the U.S. plunged last week to the lowest level in almost nine years as Americans waited for the outcome of deliberations to extend a government tax credit.
The Mortgage Bankers Association’s index of applications to buy a house dropped 12 percent in the week ended Nov. 6 to 220.9, the lowest level since Dec. 2000. The group’s refinancing gauge rose 11 percent as interest rates decreased, pushing the overall index up 3.2 percent.
The drop in buying plans points to the risk that the recent stabilization in housing will unravel without government help. In a bid to sustain the recovery, Congress passed and the administration signed a bill last week to extend jobless benefits and incentives for first-time homebuyers, adding a provision that also made funds available to current owners.
“Uncertainty over the housing tax credit sent some tremors through the market in recent weeks,” Michael Larson, a housing analyst at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Florida, said before the report. “But now that Congress has extended and expanded the credit, we should see demand pick back up.”
The MBA’s overall index climbed to 627.5 last week from 608.3, the banking group reported today in Washington. Its refinancing gauge increased to 2998.2 from 2693.7.